1 October 2017, 4.00PM, JW3.
Chaired by Sasha Roseneil.
Robert Fine and Philip Spencer’s book ‘Antisemitism and the Left’ worries about and describes the return of the ‘Jewish Question’. They go back to key debates on the left in the past concerning antisemitism, involving Hegel, Marx, Arendt, Adorno and Horkheimer. They show how left antisemitism has always been vigorously opposed by influential people within the left and they aim to learn from how they did it. They show how the so-called ‘Jewish Question’ is never really about Jews but is always really about antisemites; rather they are interested in the antisemitism question.
David Hirsh’s book ‘Contemporary Left Antisemitism’ begins with the Livingstone Formulation, describing how Jews who experience antisemitism are treated with more suspicion than are the people who actually stumble into antisemitism itself. It goes on to look at how antizionism and hostility to Israel, with its antisemitic discourses attached, moved into the mainstream of the Labour party from the extremist fringe and at the rise of Corbyn. The book goes back to struggles over the boycott of Israel within the academic trade unions and it goes on to look at more conceptual issues about how we can understand this kind of antisemitism.
Dave Rich’s book, ‘The Left’s Jewish Problem’ traces Jeremy Corbyn’s issues with Israel and antisemitism back to their roots. It looks at antizionism in the Soviet Union and how that politics was reconfigured in Britain in the 1970s and 80s. He focuses on the student movement at this time and how the Israel-Palestine conflict was forced through template of the anti-apartheid movement; this led to campaigns to boycott Israel and it also led to the claim that Zionism is simply a form of racism which must be opposed by all antiracists. Dave Rich tells the story of campaigns by antizionists to ban student Jewish societies and how hostility to Israel often manifested itself as hostility to the Jews who were said to support it.
Robert Fine is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Warwick University.
Philip Spencer is Emeritus Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Kingston University and a visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London.
Lesley Klaff is Senior Lecturer in Law at Sheffield Hallam University.